Soil Collection Remembers City’s Lynched Black Men

Shown collecting soil front the death site of Eugene Burman, are volunteers Adrian Rhodes, Lauren Husband and Lynn Sherman. (Photo Credit: Laura Evans)

The Jacksonville Community Remembrance Project, an initiative of 904WARD,  held a virtual and social distancing soil collection ceremony to commemorate the anniversary of the lynching of Eugene Burnam.

The lynching, one of thousands of crimes of racial terror designed to instill fear in Black communities and suppress their civil rights, took place in Duval County in 1923. On Sunday, December 30, 1923, Eugene Burnam was lynched by four white men who suspected him of informing police about their moonshine still. He was brutally beaten and shot in broad daylight, and those responsible were quickly identified, but never brought to trial. One of the men later became a Jacksonville police officer.

“Few public commemorations of African Americans’ suffering during the post-slavery era — of which racial terror lynchings played a significant role — exist today,” said Lynn Sherman and Melanie Patz, co-chairs of the Jacksonville Community Remembrance Project. The soil collected at the site of the crime will fill two jars: One to be sent to EJI’s National Memorial for Peace and Justice, and one to be retained locally.

The volunteer-driven Community Remembrance Project works to increase awareness of racism, its history, its trauma, and its impact today; promote truth, understanding and reconciliation for our community; and activate collective ownership toward racial equity in Jacksonville.

It is part of a national movement to create public memorials on lynching spearheaded by the Equal Justice Initiative to acknowledge and remember the legacy of racial terror lynchings. The collaboration collects soils from lynching sites across the area and erecting historical markers in these spaces, as well as establishing other public memorials and educational initiatives.

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